ABC AM, Perth, interview with Kim Landers

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Australia's Foreign Minister is Julie Bishop and she joins me from Perth, Minister good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Kim.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe North Korea has carried out a successful hydrogen bomb test?

JULIE BISHOP: It is clear that North Korea has detonated a nuclear device but there's a considerable degree of scepticism as to whether it is indeed a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb as North Korea has claimed. It will be some days before testing can take place to establish the exact nature of the device, but the fact is a significant device was detonated, comparable to an earthquake of about 5 on the Richter scale. Overnight I spoke to South Korea's Foreign Minister, Yun Byung-se, and he confirmed that South Korean experts were somewhat sceptical, that North Korea has in the past exaggerated its technological prowess, and it is more likely that it was a nuclear test as it has done in the past. Its past three weapons tests have all been nuclear and this was carried out very much in the same way and in the same place but it will be some time before we can establish whether it was in fact a much more dangerous and advanced technological device in a hydrogen bomb.

JOURNALIST: The UN Security Council has held an emergency meeting, it's agreed to impose further sanctions against North Korea, but given that North Korea is already under US and UN sanctions, what more can actually be done?

JULIE BISHOP: The UN Security Council was united in its condemnation. They all agreed that a test had occurred. They all agreed that this was in clear violation of previous UN Security Council resolutions, there are already four in existence, and it was a breach of international norms on nuclear and non-proliferation. The UN Security Council members are currently drafting another resolution to contain further significant measures against North Korea. The sanctions regime will have an impact, it is having an impact but it will have an impact if all nations impose the sanctions, and the relationship with China can't be an excuse for North Korea's behaviour to continue. So I believe that China will be key to ensuring that the sanctions are imposed and that the relationship between Chinese companies and individuals and North Korea doesn't lessen the impact of the sanctions.

JOURNALIST: You mention China there, what exactly do you think China needs to do to put more pressure on North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: China is clearly frustrated with North Korea's behaviour, it has been for some time and I think there's been a cooling of relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. Nevertheless China is its closest ally, it's only friend if you like, and China does have considerable influence over North Korea. Perhaps not as much as the international community would wish, but nevertheless as a neighbour and as a friend of North Korea, China can continue to exert pressure to ensure that the leader of North Korea abides by international norms and progresses the denuclearisation of the weapons program.

JOURNALIST: North Korean state television says the test was of a miniaturised device, does this mean Pyongyang can make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile that could reach Australia for example?

JULIE BISHOP: Well clearly this is the concern of the United Nations Security Council. Indeed it's the concern of South Korea because of course they are part of the Korean peninsula and it's the concern of countries like Australia. Now the details of the precise weapon are not yet established, but nevertheless regardless of the type of weapon, this kind of provocative and dangerous behaviour escalates tensions on the Korean peninsula and proves that North Korea continues to be a threat to regional stability and international peace and security.

JOURNALIST: If I can turn to the Middle East, we've seen tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalate, following the execution of the Shiite cleric, there's a big protest planned outside the Saudi Embassy in Canberra today, where does Australia stand on this?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia expressed its deep concern over the executions that were carried out by Saudi Arabia because Australia opposes the death penalty whether at home or abroad. We are also deeply disturbed by the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Iran and this has escalated tensions in the Middle East in an already troubled region. This Saudi-Iran tension has obviously caused an even greater level of unrest in the Middle East. We have called on all sides, all people to be calm, to act with restraint and that Saudi Arabia and Iran should work to de-escalate the tensions that are clearly existing between the two nations and of course other nations in the region are taking sides. It has the potential to spiral, but we are calling on all sides to exercise restraint and calm.

JOURNALIST: Here in Australia on another matter, are you dismayed by the behaviour of your Liberal colleagues Jamie Briggs and Peter Dutton?

JULIE BISHOP: In both instances the colleagues have recognised the error of their ways. Jamie Briggs has resigned and that is a significant consequence from the actions that occurred while he was overseas and Peter Dutton has apologised to the journalist and she has accepted his apology…

JOURNALIST: You don't think Mr Dutton should lose his position on the front bench?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it was an inadvertent text to a journalist, she has accepted his apology and I think in those circumstances we should move on.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to the Hong Kong based DFAT staffer who complained about Mr Briggs?

JULIE BISHOP: No I have not.

JOURNALIST: Do you plan to?

JULIE BISHOP: No I do not. She has asked for confidentiality, she's asked for privacy and I'm satisfied that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are providing the appropriate level of support and they've offered her counselling services and they are working closely with her and I have maintained contact with the relevant officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure that she is receiving that support.

JOURNALIST: Also today Barnaby Joyce has given an interview; he's been setting out his credentials for why he should become Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister. Do you think he is ready for that role?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Warren Truss is the leader of the National party and he is the Deputy Prime Minister. Warren is a very dear friend and a good colleague so I think out of respect for Warren we should allow him to make a decision as to his future before we start talking about his successor.

JOURNALIST: Well to be clear Mr Joyce has said that you know he is only talking about this, should the time come that Mr Truss resigns, but he's trying to make it clear that should that time come, he is ready for the job. Do you think he's ready for the job?
JULIE BISHOP: Well when that time comes, I'm sure the National Party will make a decision. The leadership of the National Party is a matter for the National Party. Barnaby is the deputy leader and is doing a very fine job, but the question of the leadership of the National Party, given that it brings with it the deputy prime ministership. is obviously a significant mater for the National Party.
to determine.

JOURNALIST: Minister thank you very much for speaking with AM.

JULIE BISHOP: It's been my pleasure.

- Ends -

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